Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports


Why Kyle Shanahan envisions Deebo Samuel having a similar role for 49ers in 2022

Feb 1, 2022 at 1:34 PM--


Deebo Samuel is a wide receiver, a running back, and he even threw a touchdown pass this season. He is one of the most versatile offensive weapons in the NFL. Everyone is looking for the next Deebo, and the San Francisco 49ers are lucky to have him.

Samuel led the team in receiving with 1,405 yards. He also had 365 rushing yards and a team-high eight rushing touchdowns. The third-year player doesn't even refer to himself as a wide receiver. Instead, he labels himself a "wide back"—a wide receiver and running back hybrid.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with reporters on Tuesday and was asked if he envisions Samuel having a similar dual-threat role next season. After all, it was very successful this year. However, you have to worry about the toll it takes on a player's body playing two very demanding positions, especially one as physically punishing as running back.

"I see [his role next season] as very similar," Shanahan said. "I mean, we've got to be careful with that. Running back is different, but he's also built like a running back and runs like a running back. He just happens to do stuff a receiver also does really good. If you look at his body, he looks more like a running back. But we never want to stop using him at receiver.

"And it's just the threat that he can be a running back at any time is a huge advantage for your team, and it's a huge advantage for Deebo too. It's a way he can make sure that he gets touches. You can do that at receiver but not like when you can just hand the ball to a guy. So, we've always got to keep that threat. That's what separates him. Deebo knows that too."

Samuel admitted this week that he is more than willing to do whatever the 49ers coaches ask of him.

"Yeah, I'm perfectly fine with it," Samuel told reporters. "Like I stated all year long, I'm down for whatever to help this team win in every aspect."

The 49ers were more willing to push Samuel during the team's three playoff games, given everything that was on the line. The team clinched a playoff spot on its final play of the regular season and then fought to make it to the NFC Championship Game, falling short of a second Super Bowl appearance in three years.

"It's one game or you go home," Shanahan continued. "Deebo knows that. I know that. We're doing what we can to win. And I also think if we get some more backs too, you can balance that all out, but we also know how good Deebo is at it, and the defense does too."

Samuel averaged 6.2 rushing yards per carry and proved to be a headache for opposing defenders. That allowed Shanahan to be creative with his play designs.

"Knowing that he can be there at any time, just like knowing when a quarterback can be a threat as a runner at any time, all that stuff is unusual [when it comes to] how to treat personnel groupings, and things like that," Shanahan added. "That's why it's something I don't see going away for him."



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